Participation in the Kyoto Protocol, where dark green indicates countries that have signed and ratified the treaty, yellow is signed, but not yet ratified, grey is not yet decided and red is no intention of ratifying.

The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or FCCC), aimed at combating global warming. The UNFCCC is an international environmental treaty with the goal of achieving "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system."[1]

The Protocol was initially adopted on 11 December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan and entered into force on 16 February 2005. As of October 2009, 184 states have signed and ratified the protocol.[2] The most notable non-member of the Protocol is the United States, which is a signatory of UNFCCC. The Protocol can be signed and ratified only by parties to UNFCCC, (Article 24) and a country can withdraw by giving 12 months notice. (Article 27)

Under the Protocol, 37 industrialized countries (called "Annex I countries") commit themselves to a reduction of four greenhouse gases (GHG) (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride) and two groups of gases (hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons) produced by them, and all member countries give general commitments. Annex I countries agreed to reduce their collective greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% from the 1990 level. National limitations range from the reduction of 8% for the European Union and others to 7% for the United States (non-binding as the US is not a signatory), 6% for Japan and 0% for Russia. The treaty permits emission increases of 8% for Australia and 10% for Iceland.[3] Emission limits do not include emissions by international aviation and shipping.

The Protocol allows for several "flexible mechanisms", such as Emissions Trading, the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation to allow Annex I countries to meet their GHG emission limitations by purchasing GHG emission reductions credits from elsewhere, through financial exchanges, projects that reduce emissions in non-Annex I countries, from other Annex I countries, or from annex I countries with excess allowances. In practice this means that non-Annex I countries have no GHG emission restrictions, but have financial incentives to develop GHG emission reduction projects to receive "carbon credits" that can then be sold to Annex I countries, encouraging sustainable development.[4] In addition, the flexible mechanisms allow annex I countries with efficient, low GHG-emitting industries, and high prevailing environmental standards to purchase carbon credits on the world market instead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions domestically. Annex I countries typically will want to acquire carbon credits as cheaply as possible, while non-annex I countries want to maximize the value of carbon credits generated from their domestic Greenhouse Gas Projects.

All Annex I countries have established Designated National Authorities to manage their greenhouse gas portfolios, and countries including Japan, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain and others are actively promoting government carbon funds, supporting multilateral carbon funds intent on purchasing carbon credits from non-Annex I countries,[5] and are working closely with their major utility, energy, oil and gas and chemicals conglomerates to acquire greenhouse gas certificates as cheaply as possible.[citation needed] Virtually all of the non-Annex I countries have also established Designated National Authorities to manage the Kyoto process, specifically the "CDM process" that determines which GHG Projects they wish to propose for accreditation by the CDM Executive Board.


The majority opinion of the international scientific communities is that human activities resulted in substantial global warming from the mid-20th century, and that continued growth in greenhouse gas concentrations caused by human-induced emissions would generate high risks of dangerous climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted an average global rise in temperature of 1.4°C (2.5°F) to 5.8°C (10.4°F) between 1990 and 2100.[6]

Ratification process

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The Protocol was adopted by COP 3 on 11 December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. It was opened on 16 March 1998 for signature by parties to UNFCCC.

Article 25 of the Protocol specifies that the Protocol enters into force "on the ninetieth day after the date on which not less than 55 Parties to the Convention, incorporating Parties included in Annex I which accounted in total for at least 55% of the total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990 of the Parties included in Annex I, have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession."

Of the two conditions, the "55 parties" clause was reached on 23 May 2002 when Iceland ratified the Protocol. The ratification by Russia on 18 November 2004 satisfied the "55%" clause and brought the treaty into force, effective 16 February 2005.

As of October 2009, 183 countries and one regional economic organization (the EC) have ratified the agreement, representing over 63.9% of the 1990 emissions from Annex I countries.[2] Australia ratified the Kyoto Protocol on 3 December 2007, which came into effect at the end of March 2008, after the required lapse of 90 days.

Ratification means that an Annex I country has agreed to cap emissions in accordance with the Protocol. 38 of the 39 Annex I countries have agreed to cap their emissions in this way, two others are required to do so under their conditions of accession into the EU, and one more intends to become an Annex I country.

The most notable non-party to the Protocol is the United States, which is a party to UNFCCC.


Kyoto is intended to cut global emissions of greenhouse gases.

The objective is the "stabilization and reconstruction of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system."[1]

The objective of the Kyoto climate change conference was to establish a legally binding international agreement, whereby all the participating nations commit themselves to tackling the issue of global warming and greenhouse gas emissions. The target agreed upon was an average reduction of 5.2% from 1990 levels by the year 2012.

Proponents also note that Kyoto is a first step[7][8] as requirements to meet the UNFCCC will be modified until the objective is met, as required by UNFCCC Article 4.2(d).[9]

The five principal concepts of the Kyoto Protocol are:[citation needed]

Details of the agreement

According to a press release from the United Nations Environment Programme:

"After 10 days of tough negotiations, ministers and other high-level officials from 160 countries reached agreement this morning on a legally binding Protocol under which industrialized countries will reduce their collective emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2%. The agreement aims to lower overall emissions from a group of six greenhouse gases by 2008-12, calculated as an average over these five years. Cuts in the three most important gases - carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N20) - will be measured against a base year of 1990. Cuts in three long-lived industrial gases - hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) - can be measured against either a 1990 or 1995 baseline."

National limitations range from 8% reductions for the European Union and others, to 7% for the US, 6% for Japan, 0% for Russia, and permitted increases of 8% for Australia and 10% for Iceland.[3]

The agreement supplements the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, which did not set any limitations or enforcement mechanisms. All parties to UNFCCC can sign or ratify the Kyoto Protocol, while non-parties to UNFCCC cannot. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted at the third session of the Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 3) in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. Most provisions of the Kyoto Protocol apply to developed countries, listed in Annex I to UNFCCC. Emission figures exclude international aviation and shipping.

Common but differentiated responsibility

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed to a set of a "common but differentiated responsibilities." The parties agreed that:

  1. the largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases originated in developed countries;
  2. per capita emissions in developing countries are still relatively low;
  3. the share of global emissions originating in developing countries will grow to meet social and development needs.[10]

China, India, and other developing countries were not included in any numerical limitation of the Kyoto Protocol, because they were not main contributors to the greenhouse gas emissions in the pre-treaty industrialization period. China has since become the largest greenhouse gas emitter.[11] However, even without responsibility under the Kyoto target, developing countries were to share the common responsibility of all countries to reduce emissions.

The protocol defines a mechanism of "compliance" as a "monitoring compliance with the commitments and penalties for non-compliance."[12]

Financial commitments

The Protocol also reaffirms the principle that developed countries have to pay billions of dollars, and supply technology to other countries for climate-related studies and projects. The principle was originally agreed in UNFCCC.

Emissions trading

Main article: Emissions trading

Kyoto provides for a 'cap and trade' system which imposes national caps on the emissions of annex I countries. On average, this cap requires countries to reduce their emissions by 5.2% below their 1990 baseline over the 2008 to 2012 period. Although these caps are national-level commitments, in practice, most countries will devolve their emissions targets to individual industrial entities, such as a power plant or paper factory. One example of a 'cap and trade' system is the 'EU ETS'. Other schemes may follow suit in time.

The ultimate buyers of credits are often individual companies that expect emissions to exceed their quota, their assigned allocation units, AAUs or 'allowances' for short. Typically, they will purchase credits directly from another party with excess allowances, from a broker, from a JI/CDM developer, or on an exchange.

National governments, some of whom may not have devolved responsibility for meeting Kyoto obligations to industry, and that have a net deficit of allowances, will buy credits for their own account, mainly from JI/CDM developers. These deals are occasionally done directly through a national fund or agency, as in the case of the Dutch government's ERUPT programme, or via collective funds such as the World Bank’s Prototype Carbon Fund (PCF). The PCF, for example, represents a consortium of six governments and 17 major utility and energy companies on whose behalf it purchases credits.

Since allowances and carbon credits are tradeable instruments with a transparent price, financial investors can buy them on the spot market for speculation purposes, or link them to futures contracts. A high volume of trading in this secondary market helps price discovery and liquidity, and in this way helps to keep down costs and set a clear price signal in CO2 which helps businesses to plan investments. This market has grown substantially, with banks, brokers, funds, arbitrageurs and private traders now participating in a market valued at about $60 billion in 2007.[13] Emissions Trading PLC, for example, was floated on the London Stock Exchange's AIM market in 2005 with the specific remit of investing in emissions instruments.

Although Kyoto created a framework and a set of rules for a global carbon market, there are in practice several distinct schemes or markets in operation today, with varying degrees of linkages among them.

Kyoto enables a group of several annex I countries to create a market-within-a-market together. The EU elected to be treated as such a group, and created the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The EU ETS uses EAUs (EU Allowance Units), each equivalent to a Kyoto AAU. The scheme went into operation on 1 January 2005, although a forward market has existed since 2003.

The UK established its own learning-by-doing voluntary scheme, the UK ETS, which ran from 2002 through 2006. This market existed alongside the EU's scheme, and participants in the UK scheme have the option of applying to opt out of the first phase of the EU ETS, which lasts through 2007[citation needed].

The sources of Kyoto credits are the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Joint Implementation (JI) projects. The CDM allows the creation of new carbon credits by developing emission reduction projects in non-annex I countries, while JI allows project-specific credits to be converted from existing credits within annex I countries. CDM projects produce Certified Emission Reductions (CERs), and JI projects produce Emission Reduction Units (ERUs), each equivalent to one AAU. Kyoto CERs are also accepted for meeting EU ETS obligations, and ERUs will become similarly valid from 2008 for meeting ETS obligations (although individual countries may choose to limit the number and source of CER/JIs they will allow for compliance purposes starting from 2008). CERs/ERUs are overwhelmingly bought from project developers by funds or individual entities, rather than being exchange-traded like allowances.

Since the creation of Kyoto is subject to a lengthy process of registration and certification by the UNFCCC, and the projects themselves require several years to develop, this market is at this point largely a forward market where purchases are made at a discount to their equivalent currency, the EUA, and are almost always subject to certification and delivery (although up-front payments are sometimes made). According to IETA, the market value of CDM/JI credits transacted in 2004 was EUR 245 m; it is estimated that more than EUR 620 m worth of credits were transacted in 2005.

Several non-Kyoto carbon markets are in existence or being planned, and these are likely to grow in importance and numbers in the coming years. These include the New South Wales Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and Western Climate Initiative in the United States and Canada, the Chicago Climate Exchange and the State of California’s recent initiative to reduce emissions.

These initiatives taken together may create a series of partly linked markets, rather than a single carbon market. The common theme is the adoption of market-based mechanisms centered on carbon credits that represent a reduction of CO2 emissions. The fact that some of these initiatives have similar approaches to certifying their credits makes it possible that carbon credits in one market may in the long run be tradeable in other schemes. The scheme would broaden the current carbon market far more than the current focus on the CDM/JI and EU ETS domains. An obvious precondition, however, is a realignment of penalties and fines to similar levels,since these create an effective ceiling for each market.


The protocol left several issues open to be decided later by the sixth Conference of Parties (COP). COP6 attempted to resolve these issues at its meeting in the Hague in late 2000, but was unable to reach an agreement due to disputes between the European Union on the one hand (which favoured a tougher agreement) and the United States, Canada, Japan and Australia on the other (which wanted the agreement to be less demanding and more flexible).

In 2001, a continuation of the previous meeting (COP6bis) was held in Bonn where the required decisions were adopted. After some concessions, the supporters of the protocol (led by the European Union) managed to get Japan and Russia in as well by allowing more use of carbon dioxide sinks.

COP7 was held from 29 October 2001 through 9 November 2001 in Marrakech to establish the final details of the protocol.

The first Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (MOP1) was held in Montreal from 28 November to 9 December 2005, along with the 11th conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP11). See United Nations Climate Change Conference.

The 3 December 2007, Australia ratified the protocol during the first day of the COP13 in Bali.

Of the signatories, 36 developed C.G. countries (plus the EU as a party in the European Union)agreed to a 10% emissions increase for Iceland; but, since the EU's member states each have individual obligations,[14] much larger increases (up to 27%) are allowed for some of the less developed EU countries (see below #Increase in greenhouse gas emission since 1990).[15] Reduction limitations expire in 2013.


If the enforcement branch determines that an annex I country is not in compliance with its emissions limitation, then that country is required to make up the difference plus an additional 30%. In addition, that country will be suspended from making transfers under an emissions trading program.[16]

Current positions of governments

Carbon emissions from various global regions during the period 1800-2000 AD

See also: List of Kyoto Protocol signatories


On the change of government following the election in November 2007, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd signed the ratification immediately after assuming office on 3 December 2007, just before the meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change;[17][18] it took effect in March, 2008.[19] When he was in the opposition, Rudd commissioned Ross Garnaut to report on the economic effects of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The report was submitted to the Australian government on September 30, 2008. The policy of the Rudd government contrasts with that of the former Australian government, which refused to ratify the agreement on the ground that following the protocol would be costly,[20] and that countries like India and China with expanding economies and large population would not have any obligations. Furthermore, it was claimed that Australia was already doing enough to cut emissions, with a pledge of $300 million to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over three years. [citation needed]

The greenhouse gas emissions in Australia from 2008 to 2012 was projected to be at 9% above the level in 1990, including the effects of land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF). The figure is slightly above the Kyoto Protocol limitation of 8%. In 2007, the UNFCCC reported that the greenhouse gas emissions in Australia in 2004 were at 25.6% above the level in 1990, without the LULUCF correction.[21]

The previous Australian government, along with the United States, agreed to sign the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate at the ASEAN regional forum on 28 July 2005. Furthermore, the state of New South Wales (NSW) commenced the NSW greenhouse gas abatement scheme.[22] This mandatory scheme of greenhouse gas emissions trading commenced on 1 January 2003 and is currently in trial by the state government in NSW alone. Notably, this scheme allows accredited certificate providers to trade emissions from households in the state. As of 2006, the scheme is still in place despite the outgoing Prime Minister's clear dismissal of emissions trading as a credible solution to climate change. Following the example of NSW, the national emissions trading scheme (NETS) has been established as an initiative of state and territory governments of Australia, all of which have Labor Party governments, except Western Australia.[23] The purpose of NETS is to establish an intra-Australian carbon trading scheme to coordinate policy among regions. As the Constitution of Australia[24] does not refer specifically to environmental matters (apart from water), the allocation of responsibility is to be resolved at a political level. In the later years of the Howard administration (1996-2007), the states governed by the Labor took steps to establish a NETS (a) to take action in a field where there were few mandatory federal steps and (b) as a means of facilitating ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by the incoming Labor government.

Greenpeace has called clause 3.7 of the Kyoto Protocol the "Australia clause" on the ground that it unfairly made Australia a major beneficiary. The clause allows annex 1 countries with a high rate of land clearing in 1990 to set the level in that year as a base. Greenpeace argues that since Australia had an extremely high level of land clearing in 1990, Australia's "baseline" was unusually high compared to other countries.[25]

In May 2009, Kevin Rudd delayed and changed the carbon pollution reduction scheme:[26]


On 17 December 2002, Canada ratified the treaty that came into force in February 2005, requiring it to reduce emissions to 6% below 1990 levels during the 2008-2012 commitment period. At that time, numerous polls showed support for the Kyoto protocol at around 70%.[27][28] Despite strong public support, there was still some opposition, particularly by the Canadian Alliance, a precursor to the governing Conservative Party, some business groups,[29] and energy concerns, using arguments similar to those being voiced in the U.S. In particular, there was a fear that since U.S. companies would not be affected by the Kyoto Protocol, Canadian companies would be at a disadvantage. In 2005, a "war of words" was ongoing, primarily between Alberta, Canada's primary oil and gas producer, and the federal government. In 2003, the federal government claimed that it had spent or committed $3.7 billion on climate change programs.[30] By 2004, CO2 emissions had risen to 27% above the level in 1990, which compares unfavorably with the 16% increase in emissions in the U.S. in the same time.[31] By 2006 they were down to 21.7% above 1990 levels.[32]

In January 2006, a Conservative minority government under Stephen Harper was elected, who previously has expressed opposition to Kyoto, and in particular to the international emission trading. Rona Ambrose, who replaced Stéphane Dion as the environment minister, has since endorsed and expressed interests in some types of emission trading.[33] On 25 April 2006, Ambrose announced that Canada would have no chance of meeting its targets under Kyoto, but would look to participate in the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate sponsored by the U.S. "We've been looking at the Asia-Pacific Partnership for a number of months now because the key principles around [it] are very much in line with where our government wants to go," Ambrose told reporters.[34] On 2 May 2006, it was reported that the funding to meet the Kyoto standards had been cut, while the Harper government develops a new plan to take its place.[35] As the co-chair of the UN Climate Change Conference in Nairobi in November 2006, the Canadian government received criticism from environmental groups and other governments for its position.[36] On 4 January 2007, Rona Ambrose moved from the Ministry of the Environment to become Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. The environment portfolio went to John Baird, the former President of the Treasury Board.

The federal government has introduced legislation to set mandatory emissions targets for industry, but they will not take effect until 2012, with a benchmark date of 2006 as opposed to Kyoto's 1990. The government has since begun working with opposition parties to modify the legislation.

A private member's bill[37] was put forth by Pablo Rodriguez, Liberal, to force the government to "ensure that Canada meets its global climate change obligations under the Kyoto Protocol." With the support of the Liberals, the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois, and with the current minority situation, the bill passed the House of Commons on 14 February 2007 with a vote of 161 to 113.[38] The Senate passed the bill, and it received Royal Assent on 22 June 2007.[39] However, the government, as promised, has largely ignored the bill, which was to force the government 60 days to form a detailed plan, citing economic reasons.[40][41]

In May 2007, the Friends of the Earth sued the federal government for failing to meet the Kyoto Protocol obligations to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The obligations were based on a clause in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act that requires Ottawa to "prevent air pollution that violates an international agreement binding on Canada".[42] Canada's obligation to the treaty began in 2008.

Regardless of the federal policy, some provinces are pursuing policies to restrain emissions, including Quebec,[43] Ontario, British Columbia and Manitoba as part of the Western Climate Initiative.

Environmental groups in Canada are working together to demand that Canadian politicians take the threat of climate change seriously and make the necessary changes to ensure the safety and health of future generations. Participating groups have created a petition called KYOTOplus, on which signatories commit to the following acts:
• set a national target to cut greenhouse gas emissions at least 25 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020;
• implement an effective national plan to reach this target and help developing countries adapt and build low-carbon economies; and
• adopt a strengthened second phase of the Kyoto Protocol at the United Nations climate change conference at Copenhagen, Denmark in December 2009.

KYOTOplus is a national, non-partisan, petition-centered campaign for urgent federal government action on climate change. There are over fifty partner organizations, including: Climate Action Network Canada, Sierra Club Canada, Sierra Youth Coalition, Oxfam Canada, the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, Greenpeace Canada, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives and the David Suzuki Foundation.

People's Republic of China

As of August 27, 2008 China surpassed the United States as the biggest emitter in the world of CO2 from power generation, according to the Center for Global Development.[44] On a per capita basis, however, the emission by the power sector in the U.S. is still nearly four times that in China. The top ten power sector emitters in the world in absolute terms are China, the United States, India, Russia, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, and South Korea. If the 27 member states of the European Union are counted as a single country, the E.U. would rank as the third biggest CO2 polluter, after China and the United States. In per capita terms, emissions from the U.S. power sector are the second highest in the world. The production of electricity in the U.S. produces about 9.5 tons of CO2 per person per year, compared to 2.4 tons per person per year in China, 0.6 in India, and 0.1 in Brazil. The average per capita emission from electricity and heat production in the E.U. is 3.3 tons per year. Only Australia, at greater than 10 tons per year, emits more power-related emissions per person than the U.S does.

In a related report, Canadian economists Jeff Rubin and Benjamin Tal issued a report in 30 September 2009, The Carbon Tariff[45] Relying on data from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Rubin and Tal ground their proposal for a carbon tariff in striking facts, including the following:

In June 2007, China unveiled a 62-page climate change plan and promised to put climate change at the center of its energy policy and insisted that developed countries had an “unshirkable responsibility” to take the lead on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and that the principle of "common but differentiated responsibility", as agreed up in the UNFCCC, should be applied.[46][47]

China stated the criticisms of its energy policy were unjust.[48] It is unfair to compare among different countries, since China alone makes up one-fifth of the world's population and the per capita emission in China was low compared to the emission in the industrialized world. Even after one combines the population of the E.U., the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea, China would still outnumber them by a few hundred million. A comparison of yearly emissions also neglects the cumulative amount generated by developed countries. Studies of carbon leakage also suggest that nearly a quarter of China's emissions result from production of goods exported to developed countries.[49]

European Union

See also: Energy policy of the European Union

On 31 May 2002, all fifteen then-members of the European Union deposited the relevant ratification paperwork at the UN. The EU produces around 22% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and has agreed to a cut, on average, by 8% from 1990 emission levels. Denmark has committed itself to reducing its emissions by 21%. On 10 January 2007, the European Commission announced plans for a European Union energy policy that included a unilateral 20% reduction in GHG emissions by 2020.

The EU has consistently been one of the major nominal supporters of the Kyoto Protocol, negotiating hard to get wavering countries on board.

In December 2002, the EU created an emissions trading system in an effort to meet these tough targets. Quotas were introduced in six key industries: energy, steel, cement, glass, brick making, and paper/cardboard. There are also fines for member nations that fail to meet their obligations, starting at €40/ton of carbon dioxide in 2005, and rising to €100/ton in 2008. Current EU projections suggest that by 2008 the EU will be at 4.7% below 1990 levels.

Transport CO2 emissions in the EU grew by 32% between 1990 and 2004. The share of transport in CO2 emissions was 21% in 1990, but by 2004 this had grown to 28%.

The position of the EU is not without controversy in Protocol negotiations, however. One criticism is that, rather than reducing 8%, all the EU member countries should cut 15% as the EU insisted a uniform target of 15% for other developed countries during the negotiation while allowing itself to share a big reduction in the former East Germany to meet the 15% goal for the entire EU. Also, emission levels of former Warsaw Pact countries who now are members of the EU have already been reduced as a result of their economic restructuring. This may mean that the region's 1990 baseline level is inflated compared to that of other developed countries, thus giving European economies a potential competitive advantage over the U.S.

Both the EU (as the European Community) and its member states are signatories to the Kyoto treaty.
Greece, however was excluded from the Kyoto Protocol on Earth Day (22 April 2008) due to unfulfilled commitment of creating the adequate mechanisms of monitoring and reporting emissions, which is the minimum obligation, and delivering false reports by having no other data to report. A United Nations committee has decided to reinstate Greece in the emissions-trading system of the Kyoto Protocol after a seven-month suspension (on November 15).


Main article: German response to Kyoto Protocol

Germany reduced gas emissions by 22.4% between 1990 and 2008.[50] On 28 June 2006, the German government announced that it would exempt its coal industry from requirements under the E.U. internal emission trading system. Claudia Kemfert, an energy professor at the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin said, "For all its support for a clean environment and the Kyoto Protocol, the cabinet decision is very disappointing. The energy lobbies have played a big role in this decision."[51] However, Germany's voluntary commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 21% from the level in 1990 has practically been met, because emission has already been reduced by 19%. Germany is thus contributing 75% of the 8% reduction promised by the E.U.[52]

United Kingdom

The energy policy of the United Kingdom fully endorses goals for carbon dioxide emissions reduction and has committed to proportionate reduction in national emissions on a phased basis. The U.K. is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol.

On 13 March 2007, a draft Climate Change Bill was published after cross-party pressure over several years, led by environmental groups. Informed by the Energy White Paper 2003,[53] the bill aims to achieve a mandatory reduction of 60% in the carbon emission from the 1990 level by 2050, with an intermediate target of between 26% and 32% by 2020.[54] On 26 November 2008, the Climate Change Act became law with a target of 80% reduction over 1990.[55] The U.K. is the first country to ratify a law with such a long-range and significant carbon reduction target.

The U.K. currently appears on course to meet its Kyoto limitation for the basket of greenhouse gases, assuming the government is able to curb CO2 emissions between 2007 and 2008 to 2012.[56] Although the overall greenhouse gas emissions in the U.K. have fallen, annual net carbon dioxide emission has increased by about 2% since the Labour Party came to power in 1997.[56] As a result, it now seems highly unlikely that the government will be able to honor its pledge to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20% from the 1990 level by 2010,[56] unless an immediate and drastic action is taken under after the ratification of the Climate Change Bill.


In 2004, France shut down its last coal mine, and now gets 80% of its electricity from nuclear power[57] and therefore has relatively low CO2 emissions.[58]


Between 1990 and 2007, Norway's greenhouse gas emissions increased by 12%.[59] As well as directly reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions, Norway's idea for carbon neutrality is to finance reforestation in China, a legal provision of the Kyoto protocol.


See also: Energy policy of India

India signed and ratified the Protocol in August, 2002. Since India is exempted from the framework of the treaty, it is expected to gain from the protocol in terms of transfer of technology and related foreign investments. At the G8 meeting in June 2005, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pointed out that the per-capita emission rates of the developing countries are a tiny fraction of those in the developed world. Following the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, India maintains that the major responsibility of curbing emission rests with the developed countries, which have accumulated emissions over a long period of time. However, the U.S. and other Western nations assert that India, along with China, will account for most of the emissions in the coming decades, owing to their rapid industrialization and economic growth.


Although the Minister of State for environment Malik Min Aslam was at first not very receptive, he subsequently convinced the Shaukat Aziz cabinet to ratify the Protocol. The decision was taken in 2001 but due to international circumstances, it was announced in Argentina in 2004 and accepted in 2005, opening the way for the creation of a policy framework. On 11 January, 2005, Pakistan submitted its instruments of accession to the Kyoto Protocol. The Ministry of Environment assigned the task to work as designated national authority (DNA). In February, 2006, the national CDM operational strategy was approved, and on 27 April, 2006, the first CDM project was approved by DNA. It was reduction of large N2O from nitric acid production (investor: Mitsubishi, Japan), estimating 1 million CERs annually. Finally, in November, 2006, the first CDM project was registered with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

It was expected that the Protocol would help Pakistan lower dependence on fossil fuels through renewable energy projects. Although Pakistan was not a big polluter, it was a victim. Global warming had led to 'freak weather' in the country with record-breaking cold and heat, and droughts and floods.[60]


See also: Energy policy of Russia

Vladimir Putin approved the treaty on 4 November 2004, and Russia officially notified the United Nations of its ratification on 18 November 2004. The issue of Russian ratification was particularly closely watched in the international community, as the accord was brought into force 90 days after Russian ratification (16 February 2005).

President Putin had earlier decided in favor of the protocol in September 2004, along with the Russian cabinet,[61] against the opinion of the Russian Academy of Sciences, of the Ministry for Industry and Energy, and of the then-president's economic adviser, Andrey Illarionov, and in exchange for the EU's support for Russia's admission into the WTO.[62][63] As anticipated, after this, ratification by the lower (22 October 2004) and upper house of parliament did not encounter any obstacles.

The Kyoto Protocol limits emissions to a percentage increase or decrease from their 1990 levels. Since 1990, the economies of most countries in the former Soviet Union have collapsed, as have their greenhouse gas emissions. Because of this, Russia should have no problem meeting its commitments under Kyoto, as its current emission levels are substantially below its limitations.

There is an ongoing scientific debate on whether Russia will actually gain from selling credits for unused AAUs.

United States

See also: Energy policy of the United States

The United States (U.S.), although a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, has neither ratified nor withdrawn from the Protocol. The signature alone is merely symbolic, as the Kyoto Protocol is non-binding on the United States unless ratified. The United States was, as of at least 2005, the largest per capita emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.[64] The America's Climate Security Act of 2007, also more commonly referred to in the U.S. as the "Cap and Trade Bill", was proposed for greater U.S. alignment with the Kyoto standards and goals. That bill was almost 500 pages long, and would have provided for establishment of a federal bureau of Carbon Trading, Regulation, and Enforcement with mandates which some authorities suggest would amount to the largest tax increase in the history of the United States.[65]

On 25 July 1997, before the Kyoto Protocol was finalized (although it had been fully negotiated, and a penultimate draft was finished), the U.S. Senate unanimously passed by a 95–0 vote the Byrd-Hagel Resolution (S. Res. 98),[66][67] which stated the sense of the Senate was that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing nations as well as industrialized nations or "would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States". On 12 November 1998, Vice President Al Gore symbolically signed the protocol. Both Gore and Senator Joseph Lieberman indicated that the protocol would not be acted upon in the Senate until there was participation by the developing nations.[68] The Clinton Administration never submitted the protocol to the Senate for ratification.

The Clinton Administration released an economic analysis in July 1998, prepared by the Council of Economic Advisors, which concluded that with emissions trading among the annex B/annex I countries, and participation of key developing countries in the "Clean Development Mechanism"—which grants the latter business-as-usual emissions rates through 2012—the costs of implementing the Kyoto Protocol could be reduced as much as 60% from many estimates. Estimates of the cost of achieving the Kyoto Protocol carbon reduction targets in the United States, as compared by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), predicted losses to GDP of between 1.0% and 4.2% by 2010, reducing to between 0.5% and 2.0% by 2020. Some of these estimates assumed that action had been taken by 1998, and would be increased by delays in starting action.[69]

President George W. Bush did not submit the treaty for Senate ratification based on the exemption granted to China (now the world's largest gross emitter of carbon dioxide, although emission is low per capita[70]). Bush opposed the treaty because of the strain he believed the treaty would put on the economy; he emphasized the uncertainties which he believed were present in the scientific evidence. Furthermore, the U.S. was concerned with broader exemptions of the treaty. For example, the U.S. did not support the split between annex I countries and others. Bush said of the treaty:

This is a challenge that requires a 100% effort; ours, and the rest of the world's. The world's second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases is the People's Republic of China. Yet, China was entirely exempted from the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. India and Germany are among the top emitters. Yet, India was also exempt from Kyoto ... America's unwillingness to embrace a flawed treaty should not be read by our friends and allies as any abdication of responsibility. To the contrary, my administration is committed to a leadership role on the issue of climate change ... Our approach must be consistent with the long-term goal of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere."[71]

In June 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency released the "Climate Action Report 2002". Some observers have interpreted this report as being supportive of the protocol, although the report itself does not explicitly endorse the protocol.[citation needed] At the G8 meeting in June 2005 administration officials expressed a desire for "practical commitments industrialized countries can meet without damaging their economies". According to those same officials, the United States is on track to fulfill its pledge to reduce its carbon intensity 18% by 2012.[72] The United States has signed the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, a pact that allows those countries to set their goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions individually, but with no enforcement mechanism. Supporters of the pact see it as complementing the Kyoto Protocol while being more flexible.

The Administration's position was not uniformly accepted in the U.S. For example, Paul Krugman noted that the target 18% reduction in carbon intensity is still actually an increase in overall emissions.[73] The White House has also come under criticism for downplaying reports that link human activity and greenhouse gas emissions to climate change and that a White House official, former oil industry advocate and current Exxon Mobil officer, Philip Cooney, watered down descriptions of climate research that had already been approved by government scientists, charges the White House denies.[74] Critics point to the Bush administration's close ties to the oil and gas industries. In June 2005, State Department papers showed the administration thanking Exxon executives for the company's "active involvement" in helping to determine climate change policy, including the U.S. stance on Kyoto. Input from the business lobby group Global Climate Coalition was also a factor.[75]

In 2002, Congressional researchers who examined the legal status of the Protocol advised that signature of the UNFCCC imposes an obligation to refrain from undermining the Protocol's object and purpose, and that while the President probably cannot implement the Protocol alone, Congress can create compatible laws on its own initiative.[76]

President Barack Obama has, as yet, taken no action with the senate that would change the position of the United States towards this protocol. When Obama was in Turkey in April 2009, he said that "it doesn't make sense for the United States to sign [the Kyoto Protocol] because [it] is about to end".[77] At this time, two years and eleven months remained from the four-year commitment period.

States and local governments

The Framework Convention on Climate Change is a treaty negotiated between countries at the UN; thus individual states are not free to participate independently within this Protocol to the treaty. Nonetheless, several separate initiatives have started at the level of state or city. Eight Northeastern U.S. states created the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI),[78] a state level emissions capping and trading program, using their own independently-developed mechanisms. Their first allowances were auctioned in November 2008.

On 27 September 2006, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law the bill AB 32, also known as the Global Warming Solutions Act, establishing a timetable to reduce the state's greenhouse-gas emissions, which rank at 12th-largest in the world, by 25% by the year 2020. This law effectively puts California in line with the Kyoto limitations, but at a date later than the 2008-2012 Kyoto commitment period. Many of the features of the Californian system are similar to the Kyoto mechanisms, although the scope and targets are different. The parties in the Western Climate Initiative expect to be compatible with some or all of the Californian model.

As of 14 June 2009, 944 U.S. cities in 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, representing over 80 million Americans support Kyoto after Mayor Greg Nickels of Seattle started a nationwide effort to get cities to agree to the protocol.[79] On 29 October 2007, it was reported that Seattle met their target reduction in 2005, reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 8 percent since 1990.[80]


Advocates of the Kyoto Protocol state that reducing these emissions is crucially important, as carbon dioxide is causing the Earth's atmosphere to heat up. This is supported by attribution analysis.

Most prominent among advocates of Kyoto have been the European Union and many environmentalist organizations. The United Nations and some individual nations' scientific advisory bodies (including the G8 national science academies) have also issued reports favoring the Kyoto Protocol.

An international day of action was planned for 3 December 2005, to coincide with the Meeting of the Parties in Montreal. The planned demonstrations were endorsed by the Assembly of Movements of the World Social Forum.

A group of major Canadian corporations also called for urgent action regarding climate change, and have suggested that Kyoto is only a first step.[81]

In the United States, there is at least one student group, Kyoto Now!, which aims to use student interest to support pressure towards reducing emissions as targeted by the Kyoto Protocol compliance.


Some[82] argue the protocol does not go far enough to curb greenhouse emissions (Niue, The Cook Islands, and Nauru added notes to this effect when signing the protocol).[83]

Some environmental economists have been critical of the Kyoto Protocol.[84][85][86] Many see the costs of the Kyoto Protocol as outweighing the benefits, some believing the standards which Kyoto sets to be too optimistic, others seeing a highly inequitable and inefficient agreement which would do little to curb greenhouse gas emissions.[87] Finally, some economists such as Gwyn Prins and Steve Rayner think that an entirely different approach needs to be followed than the approach suggested by the Kyoto Protocol.[88]

Further, there is controversy surrounding the use of 1990 as a base year[citation needed], as well as not using per capita emissions as a basis. Countries had different achievements in energy efficiency in 1990. For example, the former Soviet Union and eastern European countries did little to tackle the problem and their energy efficiency was at its worst level in 1990, the year just before their communist regimes fell. On the other hand, Japan, as a big importer of natural resources, had to improve its efficiency after the 1973 oil crisis and its emissions level in 1990 was better than most developed countries. However, such efforts were set aside, and the inactivity of the former Soviet Union was overlooked and could even generate big income due to the emission trade. There is an argument that the use of per capita emissions as a basis in the following Kyoto-type treaties can reduce the sense of inequality among developed and developing countries alike, as it can reveal inactivities and responsibilities among countries.

Cost-benefit analysis

Economists have been trying to analyze the overall net benefit of Kyoto Protocol through cost-benefit analysis. There is disagreement due to large uncertainties in economic variables.[89] Some of the estimates indicate either that observing the Kyoto Protocol is more expensive than not observing the Kyoto Protocol or that the Kyoto Protocol has a marginal net benefit which exceeds the cost of simply adjusting to global warming.[citation needed] However, a study by De Leo et al. found that "accounting only for local external costs, together with production costs, to identify energy strategies, compliance with the Kyoto Protocol would imply lower, not higher, overall costs."[90]

The recent Copenhagen consensus project found that the Kyoto Protocol would slow down the process of global warming, but have a superficial overall benefit. Defenders of the Kyoto Protocol argue, however, that while the initial greenhouse gas cuts may have little effect, they set the political precedent for bigger (and more effective) cuts in the future.[91] They also advocate commitment to the precautionary principle. Critics point out that additional higher curbs on carbon emission are likely to cause significantly higher increase in cost, making such defense moot. Moreover, the precautionary principle could apply to any political, social, economic or environmental consequence, which might have equally devastating effect in terms of poverty and environment, making the precautionary argument irrelevant. The Stern Review (a UK government sponsored report into the economic impacts of climate change) concluded that one percent of global GDP is required to be invested to mitigate the effects of climate change, and that failure to do so could risk a recession worth up to twenty percent of global GDP.[92]

Discount rates

One problem in attempting to measure the "absolute" costs and benefits of different policies to global warming is choosing a proper discount rate. Over a long time horizon such as that in which benefits accrue under Kyoto, small changes in the discount rate create very large discrepancies between net benefits in various studies. However, this difficulty is generally not applicable to "relative" comparison of alternative policies under a long time horizon. This is because changes in discount rates tend to equally adjust the net cost/benefit of different policies unless there are significant discrepancies of cost and benefit over time horizon.

It has been difficult to arrive at a scenario under which the net benefits of Kyoto are positive using traditional discounting methods such as the Shadow Price of Capital approach,[93].

Increase in greenhouse gas emission since 1990

Below is a list of the change in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2004 for some countries that are part of the Climate Change Convention as reported by the United Nations.[94]

Country Change in greenhouse gas
Emissions (1990-2004)
excluding LULUCF
Change in greenhouse gas
Emissions (1990-2004)
including LULUCF
EU Assigned Objective
for 2012
Treaty Obligation 2008-2012
Denmark -19% -22.2% -20% -11%
Germany -17% -18.2% -21% -8%
Canada +27% +26.6% n/a -6%
Australia +25% +5.2% n/a +8%
Spain +49% +50.4% +15% -8%
Norway +10% -18.7% n/a +1%
New Zealand +21% +17.9% n/a 0%
France -0.8% -6.1% 0% -8%
Greece +27% +25.3% +25% -8%
Ireland +23% +22.7% +13% -8%
Japan +6.5% +5.2% n/a -6%
United Kingdom -14% -58.8% -12.5% -8%
Portugal +41% +28.9% +27% -8%
EU-15 -0.8% -2.6% n/a -8%

Below is a table of the changes in greenhouse gas emissions of some countries.[95]

Country Change in greenhouse gas
Emissions (1992-2007)
India +103%
China +150%
United States +20%
Russian Federation -20%
Japan +11%
Worldwide Total +38%

Comparing total greenhouse gas emissions in 2004 to 1990 levels, the U.S. emissions were up by 15.8%,[96] with irregular fluctuations from one year to another but a general trend to increase.[97] At the same time, the EU group of 23 (EU-23) Nations had reduced their emissions by 5%.[98] In addition, the EU-15 group of nations (a large subset of EU-23) reduced their emissions by 0.8% between 1990 and 2004, while emission rose 2.5% from 1999 to 2004. Part of the increases for some of the European Union countries are still in line with the treaty, being part of the cluster of countries implementation (see objectives in the list above).

As of year-end 2006, the United Kingdom and Sweden were the only EU countries on pace to meet their Kyoto emissions commitments by 2010. While UN statistics indicate that, as a group, the 36 Kyoto signatory countries can meet the 5% reduction target by 2012, most of the progress in greenhouse gas reduction has come from the stark decline in Eastern European countries' emissions after the fall of communism in the 1990s.[99]


Main article: Post-Kyoto Protocol negotiations on greenhouse gas emissions

In the non-binding 'Washington Declaration' agreed on 16 February 2007, Heads of governments from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom, the United States, Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa agreed in principle on the outline of a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. They envisage a global cap-and-trade system that would apply to both industrialized nations and developing countries, and hoped that this would be in place by 2009.[100][101]

On 7 June 2007, leaders at the 33rd G8 summit agreed that the G8 nations would 'aim to at least halve global CO2 emissions by 2050'. The details enabling this to be achieved would be negotiated by environment ministers within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in a process that would also include the major emerging economies.[102]

A round of climate change talks under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (Vienna Climate Change Talks 2007) concluded in 31 August 2007 with agreement on key elements for an effective international response to climate change.[103]

A key feature of the talks was a United Nations report that showed how energy efficiency could yield significant cuts in emissions at low cost.

The talks are meant to set the stage for a major international meeting to be held in Nusa Dua, Bali, which started on 3 December 2007.[104]

The 2008 Conference was held in December 2008 in Poznań, Poland. One of the main topics on this meeting was the discussion of a possible implementation of avoided deforestation also known as Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) into the future Kyoto Protocol.[105]

UN negotiations are now gathering pace in advance of a key meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009.[106]

Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate

See also: Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate

The Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate is an agreement among seven Asia-Pacific nations: Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, South Korea, and the United States. Between them, these seven countries are responsible for more than half of the world's carbon dioxide emissions.

The partnership had its official launch in January 2006 at a ceremony in Sydney, Australia. The alliance states that member nations have initiated nearly 100 projects aimed at clean energy capacity building and market formation since then[citation needed]. Building on these activities, long-term projects are scheduled to deploy clean energy and environment technologies and services. The pact allows those countries to set arbitrary goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions individually, without any enforcement mechanism for these goals.

Supporters of the pact see it as "complementing the Kyoto Protocol" whilst being more flexible. Critics have said the pact will be ineffective without any enforcement measures and is a means to undermine the negotiations leading to the Protocol scheduled to replace the current Kyoto Protocol (negotiations started in Montreal in December 2005). U.S. Senator John McCain said the partnership "[amounted] to nothing more than a nice little public relations ploy,"[107] while the Economist described the partnership as "patent fig-leaf for the refusal of America and Australia to ratify Kyoto".[108]

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Further reading